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The Jew Bill of 1753

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Here’s another thought provoking excerpt from Robert Middlekauff’s The Glorious Cause: The American Revolution, 1763-1789This excerpt is about the failure of a Jewish naturalization bill in Britain in 1753:

“Public measures at the middle of the century afford a variety of examples of the bias against change. In 1751, Parliament had received a bill for naturalizing foreign Protestants; it reached a committee before protests from the City of London and elsewhere persuaded Henry Pelham, first Lord of the Treasury, to abandon it. Two years later a similar effort was made on behalf of Jews. This “Jew Bill” earned an incredible notoriety despite its limited objectives. Its central provisions provided that Jews might be naturalized by private acts from which the words “on the true faith of a Christian” had been omitted from the oaths of supremacy and allegiance, which were still required. A similar statute had been accepted in the American colonies without opposition. The English bill slipped through an apathetic Parliament only to be repealed the next year after an immense public outcry. A careful Pelham tried to explain that only wealthy Jews would be able to afford a private bill and that the capital investments by this minority would add to public revenue. These restrained and reasonable arguments made no headway against ingrained prejudice and religious conservatism.”

So, Jewish naturalization failed in England in 1753 due to mob action in London, where the Radical Whigs were still confined to the dissenting fringe, but had been accepted in the American colonies “without opposition.” Jewish naturalization in England had been a Radical Whig project. Interesting.

Note: The Jews were expelled from England by King Edward I (Longshanks) in 1290. They were let back into England by Oliver Cromwell in 1656 during the English Civil War when England briefly flirted with republicanism.


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